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UAE federation begins direct flights to Israel in March

An Emirati man takes a selfie in front of the new Etihad Airways A380 in Abu Dhabi in 2014 (AP pic)

ABU DHABI: Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, announced on Monday that it will begin direct flights to Israel in March 2021, after the two countries recently agreed to normalize relations.

The company said in a statement that the Abu Dhabi-based airline “will launch daily scheduled flights throughout the year to Tel Aviv.”

She added that the service will start on March 28 – the date that will come roughly six months after the UAE signed a US-brokered deal to formalize relations with Israel, the first agreement of its kind between a Gulf state and a Jewish state.

“The start of scheduled flights is a historic moment, and as an airline, it reinforces Etihad’s commitment to developing trade and tourism opportunities,” said Mohamed Al-Bulooki, chief operating officer at Etihad Aviation Group, according to the statement.

Dubai’s budget airline flydubai has already announced that it will begin direct flights to Tel Aviv this month, operating 14 flights a week.

Unlike Dubai and the other emirates that make up the UAE, Abu Dhabi has imposed strict restrictions on the Coronavirus on entering the city.

With their economies hit hard by the Coronavirus epidemic, the UAE and Israel hope to make quick profits from the normalization deal.

They have already signed treaties on direct flights and visa-free travel, along with agreements on investment, science and technology protection.

The United Arab Emirates was only the third Arab country to normalize relations with Israel after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

However, Bahrain soon followed suit and Sudan also announced last month that it would normalize relations.

The agreements, which the Palestinians have strongly condemned, contradict the Arab League’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The consensus was that there should be no relations with Israel in order to make peace with the Palestinians.

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